Child advocates suspect an uptick in unreported child abuse during COVID-19

National Coronavirus Coverage

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — COVID-19 has put stress on many people, and home life is no exception. Child advocates in Middle Tennessee know first-hand how that can trickle down to children.      

For more than a half year, the scope of a webcam lens is all many teachers have been able to see of their students. Child advocates say they’re already seeing more severe cases of child abuse, but they fear what’s to come maybe much worse.   

Brent Hutchinson, executive director of the Davis House child advocacy center, says his office has seen stability in the number of child abuse cases compared to a year ago. But for him, that’s a concern.   

“We’re waiting for the spike,” Hutchinson said. “We believe that because child abuse is a crime of opportunity, and so many kids are not under the eyes of other caregivers that things are not being reported.”    

Hutchinson says between economic, health and other stress the pandemic has brought, he suspects child abuse cases have gone up. But he believes the pandemic is allowing those problems to hide behind closed doors.  

“Whenever a kid is at home learning on a Zoom platform, a teacher only has that screen to see that kid,” Hutchinson said. “A teacher in a classroom can see bruises on a child’s arm or scratches on their face.” 

Hutchinson says even though The Davis House isn’t seeing an increase in cases, they have noticing one disturbing trend.  

“We have seen an increase, I will say, in the severity of the cases that are coming into our center,” Hutchinson said. 

Hutchinson says there are steps the public can take to help. He recommends everyone look at themselves as mandated reporter and keeping an eye out wherever you go.  

“A lot of times when we’re in the public, we may notice something that’s not right with a child. With an adult, maybe their interaction is strange, maybe their interaction seems like the child is fearful of that adult. Those are signs to us that something’s wrong.” 

He also says you should be on the lookout for children wearing overly-heavy clothes during hot weather, which could be an attempt to cover scars.  

If you do spot a problem, call law enforcement right away. Experts warn against trying to intervene yourself.

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